April 18, 2024

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Tens of thousands of Israelis have marched in Jerusalem, calling for increased efforts to free captives held in Gaza and the removal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Demonstrators on Sunday evening blocked a main city highway, after earlier rallying in front of the Israeli parliament, lighting fires and waving the national flag. They claim that the protest was the biggest since the war in Gaza broke out in October.

Police used water cannon against the crowd, and jostled and pushed protesters back as they shouted that Netanyahu “must go”.

Pressure has been growing on the prime minister as opponents of his right-wing government have found common cause with the families of the hundred or more captives still held by the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza.

The families have pledged to take to the streets every night this week as they call for the government to “bring them home”.

Many protesters carried placards of Netanyahu’s face covered in blood, accusing him of failing to protect the country from Hamas.

“UR the boss, UR to blame,” read messages written on signs held by the protesters. Others said “Elections now!”

Even before Israel’s war on Gaza, Netanyahu had faced months of street protests over controversial judicial reforms.

Hamas seized about 250 captives on October 7, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,782 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

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